‘A cancerous cyst that grew hair and skin left me looking 20 weeks pregnant’
A woman who was so bloated she looked 20 weeks pregnant discovered she had a cancerous ovarian cyst that grew hair and skin.
Victoria Grande, 29, had been suffering with abdominal pain for 10 years before a CT scan revealed she had an 11cm cyst on her right ovary in April 2022 - which had been growing for 28 years.
She was told the cystic teratoma – a type of germ cell tumour – was growing hair and skin and she needed surgery to remove the cyst and stop it growing.
Victoria underwent the operation a week later and tests on the cyst revealed it was cancerous.
Doctors had to open her up again and discovered 100 tumours growing inside her – diagnosing Victoria with growing teratoma syndrome – a rare complication of teratoma.
Victoria had a 10 hour surgery in June 2022 to remove the tumours as well as two pieces of her lung, right fallopian tube, her right ovary, gallbladder and appendix – which all showed signs of cancer.
Victoria then started six rounds of chemotherapy, which caused her to lose her hair, but has now been told there is no evidence of the disease.
Despite everything, Victoria remains positive and decided to colour her shaved hair pink in February 2023 – and decorated it with blonde hearts and a little cancer ribbon at the back of her head.
Victoria, a bartender, from Charlotte, North Carolina, US, said: “My stomach had got so huge I looked pregnant.
“After my CT they told me it was an 11cm cyst. They told me it had hair and skin. It was crazy to me.
“It had been growing for 28 years but so slowly it was hard to detect.
“Growing teratoma syndrome is so rare the Facebook group I found had only six people in it.
“I love my bald head. I wanted to turn it into something fun and my favourite colour is pink.
“I love it.”
Victoria has struggled with abdominal pain all her life and was used to suffering with urinary tract infections at least once a month.
Doctors would put her pain down to constipation, but Victoria’s symptoms got worse in March 2022 and left her “bent over in pain”.
She ended up at the emergency room and was taken for a CT scan which revealed an 11cm cyst on her right ovary in April 2022.
Victoria said: “They told me it was likely wrapping around my ovary and cutting off my blood supply.
“They said it would keep growing unless I had surgery to get it out.
“The cyst was so big it was pushing my organs up and it was like I was 20 weeks pregnant inside my body.”
Victoria had keyhole surgery to cut the cyst up and remove it in April 2022.
She said: “It was a really painful recovery as all my organs were going back into place.”
The cyst was taken off a biopsy and the results came back as positive for cancer.
Victoria said: “I saw it on my health app and I said to my fiancé, Austin Cureton, 32 – ‘I think I have cancer.’
“It turns out the cyst had grown skin which had developed cancer and now it could be inside of me.”
She was told she needed surgery to see if the cancer had spread to other areas of her body and doctors were shocked to find 100 growing tumours when they opened her up.
Victoria said: “They closed me back up and told me what they had found.
“They said they would have to take everything out that has a tumour.”
She underwent a 10 hour operation in June 2022 to remove the tumours and had 42 stiches put in.
A month later Victoria was started on chemotherapy, which she finished in October 2022 after six rounds.
She’s now on medication and has a CT scan every 13 months to check the cancer hasn’t returned.
Victoria said: “I never told people I had cancer instead I said I was experiencing it. Keeping positive saved my life.”
At the start of chemotherapy Victoria had tried cold capping in an attempt to keep hair but now loves her shaved head.
She said: “I always said I wanted to shave my head once in my life.
“I don’t think I ever really would have done it.
“I thought this is my only opportunity.
“I like being bald now.”
In February 2023, Victoria decided to dye her hair pink, enlisting the help of hair stylist Ethan Matthew.
She said: “Having this hairstyle really helped me keep my confidence and positive attitude toward all this.”
Victoria hopes to be able to travel as much as she can in the next few years and tries to keep her life as normal as possible.